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Wall Street took a beating Monday on the heels of its worst January in four years amid worries about the world’s two biggest economies and ongoing uncertainty over emerging markets.
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As of 3:10 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 310 points, or 2%, to 15389, the S&P 500 slumped 40.5 points, or 2.3%, to 1742 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 111 points, or 2.7%, to 3993.
January was a tough month. The S&P 500 slid 3.6% in the broad market average's worst month since May 2012 and its worst January since 2010.
The tumble was driven by worries about intense volatility in emerging-market currencies, coupled with brewing trouble in China. So far, February is off to a similarly grim start.
The Institute for Supply Management said manufacturing activity in the U.S. slowed to 51.3 in January, compared to 56.5 the month prior, widely missing estimates of 56. Readings above 50 point to expansion, while those below indicate contraction.
"We expect manufacturing activity growth to pick up throughout the year, although the readings in coming months will be useful in determining how much, if any, of the January softness was due to transitory factors," analysts at Barclays wrote in a note to clients.
The all-important monthly jobs report from the Labor Department is also due out on Friday.
Adding to the gloomy sentiment, an official reading on China's manufacturing sector showed the factory sector in the world's No. 2 economy is barely growing. The PMI gauge came in at 50.5 in January from 51 in December.
"We think that some part of the weakness was due to the Chinese New Year holiday. However, together with the HSBC/ Markit reading, it is getting clearer that the economic slowdown has begun again," Wei Yao, an analyst at Societe Generale wrote in an email to clients.
The broad S&P 500 dipped into pullback mode -- a 5% drop from its record high -- in midday trading. It joins the Dow, which dropped into a pullback last week. Meanwhile, traders bid up safe-haven assets. Indeed, the yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury bond slid 0.042 percentage point to 2.607%. Gold rallied $21, or 1.7%, to $1,261 a troy ounce.
In a sign of the gloomy sentiment, the CBOE's VIX, seen as Wall Street's fear gauge, surged 15% to its highest level in seven months in mid-day trading.
On the corporate front, Ford (NYSE:F) posted a 7% year-over-year dip in January U.S. sales. General Motors (NYSE:GM) saw its sales slid 12%, while Chrysler saw an 8% increase.
In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures climbed 8 cents, or 0.08%, to $97.58 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline slid 1.3% to $2.627 a gallon.